Casa Jasmina Two Years On

[Bruce Sterling], author of fiction and nonfiction tomes aplenty, wrote up one of his projects for Makezine: Casa Jasmina, an IoT “house of the future”. Located in Torino, Italy, it was built upstairs from the Torino Fab Lab as a collaboration between [Bruce], his wife [Jasmina Tesanovic], and a number of other contributors. The original vision was for Casa Jasmina to be jam packed with cool laser-cut furniture, glowing LED projects, and other Maker Faire goodies.

In his piece, however, [Bruce] dials back Casa Jasmina’s technology focus. At a time when people add dodgy WiFi-capable devices to their house willy-nilly, he made it clear that it’s not just a huge assembly of projects no one fully understands. The concept of “making”, [Bruce] writes in his piece, involves algorithms and circuit boards and computer-controlled fabrication machines, and marginalizes those who don’t understand or find fascinating technological innovations. To those who love fabrication, for instance, there is a giddiness involved in creating one’s own chair out of plywood — but end users mostly just care that the creation works like a chair. The place is an AirBNB which makes it a great testbed for providing only what is needed, trusted, and stable.

For  more futuristic houses, check out our coverage of 3D-printed concrete houses and this Pi-controlled automated green house.



Custom Lightbulb Firmware

The Internet of Things is developing at a rapid pace, as hobbyists and companies rush to develop the latest and greatest home automation gear. One area of particular interest to some is lighting – yes, even the humble lightbulb now comes with a brain and is ripe for the hacking.

[Tinkerman] starts by doing a full disassembly of the Sonoff B1 lightbulb. It’s a popular device, and available for less than $20 on eBay. Rated at 6 watts, the bulb has a heatsink that is seemingly far larger than necessary. Inside is the usual AC/DC converter, LED driver and an ESP8285 running the show. While this is a slightly different part to the usual ESP8266, it can be programmed in the same way by selecting the correct programming mode.

This is where it gets interesting – [Tinkerman] flashes the device with a custom firmware known as ESPurna. This firmware enables greater control over the function of the bulb, from colour choice, to speaking to the bulb over MQTT.

[Tinkerman] does a great job of walking through the exact steps needed to disassemble and reprogram the bulb, and touches upon the added flexibility given by the custom firmware. We love to see projects like this one, that give greater control over IoT devices and enable users to better integrate them with other systems.

Hackaday Prize Entry: An Internet Doorbell

The Internet of Things will kill us all and is the worst idea anyone has ever had. However, just because something could be labeled an ‘Internet of Things thing’ doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. The Hackaday Prize’s Internet of Useful Things challenge was all about finding the Internet of Useful things, and one of these projects is so simple yet so elegant, we’re surprised no one has thought of it yet.

[David]’s entry to the Hackaday Prize is effectively an Internet of Things doorbell. You might think an IoT doorbell would just consist of a device sending push notifications to your phone. That’s part of the project, but it gets so much better.

The brilliant part of this build boils down to a simple relay. On command, [David] can turn his doorbell off. This means no ringing doorbell interrupting meals or naps. By sending a command to the ESP32 in this little device, [David] can enable or disable his doorbell. Of course, this doorbell also sends push notifications to his phone, so if the UPS guy throws a package at his front door and manages to hit the doorbell, [David] will still hear it even if he’s upstairs, in the garage, or in the backyard.

This is the simplest and most brilliant Internet of Things device ever created. It solves an obvious problem with surprisingly little hardware. The only data this device collects is the state of a doorbell, and even if this device was completely hacked by balaclava-wearing hackers, they still can’t F5 the doorbell. This is the best the Internet of Things has to offer, and we’re proud to have the Internet of Doorbells make it to the finals of the Hackaday Prize.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Internet of Fidget Spinners

We just closed out the Internet of Useful Things round of the Hackaday Prize, which means we’re neck deep in judging projects to move onto the final round this fall. Last week, everyone on was busy getting their four project logs and illustrations ready for the last call in this round of the Hackaday Prize. These projects are the best of what the Internet of Things has to offer because this is the Internet of Useful things.

We’re not sure how [Matthias]’ project will rank. It’s an Internet of Things fidget spinner. Yeah, we know, but there are some interesting engineering challenges in building an Internet-connected fidget spinner.

This is a PoV fidget spinner, which means the leading edges of this tricorn spinner are bedazzled with APA102 LEDs. Persistence-of-vision toys are as old as Hackaday, and the entire idea of a fidget spinner is to spin, so this at least makes sense.

These PoV LEDs are driven by an ESP8285, or an ESP8266 with onboard Flash. This is probably the smallest wireless microcontroller you can find, an important consideration for such a small build. Power comes from a tiny LiPo, and additional peripherals include an accelerometer to measure wobble and an optical switch to measure the rotation speed.

These electronics are fairly standard, and wouldn’t look out of place in any other project in The Hackaday Prize. The trick here is mechanical. [Matthias] needs to mount a skateboard bearing to a PCB, and no one has any idea how he’s going to do that. A fidget spinner should be well-balanced, and again [Matthias] is running into a problem. Has anyone here ever done mass and density calculations on PCBs and lithium cells? Is it possible to 3D print conformal counterweights? Has science gone too far?

Will the Internet of Things PoV Fidget Spinner make it to the finals round of The Hackaday Prize? We’ll need to wait a week or so to find out. One thing is for certain, though: you’re going to see this on AliBaba before September.

A Magic Light Bulb For All Your Bright Ideas

[Uri Shaked]’s lamentation over the breaking of his smart bulb was brief as it was inspiring — now he had a perfectly valid excuse to hack it into a magic light bulb.

The first step was disassembling the bulb and converting it to run on a tiny, 130mAh battery. Inside the bulb’s base, the power supply board, Bluetooth and radio circuits, as well as the LED board didn’t leave much room, but he was able to fit in 3.3V and 12V step-up voltage regulators for the LiPo battery.

[Shaked]’s self-imposed bonus round was to also wedge a charging circuit — which he co-opted from a previous project — into the bulb instead of disassembling it every time it needed more juice. Re-soldering the parts together: easy.  Fitting everything inside a minuscule puzzle-box: hard. Kapton tape proved eminently helpful in preventing shorts in the confined space.

Continue reading “A Magic Light Bulb For All Your Bright Ideas”

Hackaday Prize Entry: USB GSM GPS 9DOF SD TinyTracker Has All the Acronyms

[Paul] has put together an insanely small yet powerful tracker for monitoring all the things. The USB TinyTracker is a device that packages a 48MHz processor, 2G modem, GPS receiver, 9DOF motion sensor, barometer, microphone, and micro-SD slot for data storage. He managed to get it all to fit into a USB thumb drive enclosure, meaning that you can program it however you want in the Arduino IDE, then plug it into any USB port and let it run. This enables things like remote monitoring, asset tracking, and all kinds of spy-like activity.

One of the most unusual aspects of his project, though, is this line: “Everything came together very nicely and the height of parts and PCBs is exactly as I planned.” [Paul] had picked out an enclosure that was only supposed to fit a single PCB, but with some careful calculations, and picky component selection, he managed to fit everything onto two 2-layer boards that snap together with a connector and fit inside the enclosure.

We’ve followed [Paul’s] progress on this project with an earlier iteration of his GSM GPS Tracker, which used a Teensy and fit snugly into a handlebar, but this one is much more versatile.

Show Us Your Internet of Useful Things by Monday

Don’t forget to get your connected device entered in the Hackaday Prize by Monday morning. The current challenge is IuT ! IoT, a clever tilt at the Internet of Things, which is so hot right now. We don’t just want things to connect, we want that connection to be useful, so save your Internet Toasters and Twittering Toilets for another round.

So what are we looking for here? Any device that communicates with something else and thereby performs a service that has meaningful value. The Hackaday Prize is about building something that matters.

We’ve been covering a lot of great entries. HeartyPatch is an open source heart rate monitor and ECG that communicates through a smart phone. We’ve seen an affordable water level measuring station to help track when water levels are rising dangerously fast in flood prone areas. And the heads-up display for multimeters seeks to make work safer for those dealing with high voltages. Get inspired by all of the IuT ! IoT entries.

There’s $20,000 at stake in this challenge alone, as twenty IuT projects will be named finalists, awarded $1000 each, and move on to compete for the top prizes in the finals.

If you don’t have your project up on yet, now’s the time. Once your project is published, entering is as easy as using the dropdown box on the left sidebar of your project page. [Shulie] even put together a quick video showing how to submit your entry. Check to make sure “Internet of Useful Things” is listed on your project’s sidebar and if not, use that dropdown to add it.